Agile methodologies are a set of management rules and planning activities that are focused on continuous improvement and systematic development of software. This approach significantly increases the chances of successful release of software to the market, effectively optimizes processes and improves team efficiency by developing user stories for the product, incremental development, teamwork and regular meetings between customers and developers. Zippia research shows that in 2002, when first Agile methodologies appeared, only 10% of companies used them, and the number has grown to 80% in more than 20 years with more and more companies using them every year.
In this article we explore what Agile web development methodologies are, what rules they are based on, and why they can be effective. We will also look at several Agile methodologies, their benefits and drawbacks, and how you can implement them in your project if, for example, your web development team is having difficulties in successfully launching a product to the market, or if you want to replace your old management methodology with Agile and not face a lot of problems.
What are Agile development methodologies?If we look at Agile development graphics, we can see that they are similar in one way or another. What the methodologies have in common is that each project is divided into shorter repetitive iterations. This approach has become an alternative for traditional management methodologies, such as the Waterfall methodology, which focuses on releasing a fully developed product, which can be inconvenient for making changes to the project.
Agile is a common term for all methodologies that work on similar principles, and they are organized into a common family that many managers call the «Agile Umbrella». And before we dive into some popular Agile methodologies, let's understand the basics of agile project management.
Agile manifesto and its principlesThe term Agile emerged in 2001 when a group of developers developed a set of rules and formulated the Agile Manifesto, a “formal proclamation of four key values and 12 principles to guide an iterative and people-centric approach to software development”. The core values are as follows:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Responding to change over following a plan.
The manifesto also includes 12 principles that form the basis of all Agile methodologies and should be followed during product development:
1.Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
Probably the most important principle of Agile methodologies, which tells us that the product should be developed in small but complete chunks and released to the market gradually, which will eventually form into a single large product.
2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
Agile software product development methodologies are adaptable to making changes to the project, whether they come early or late. The team has the ability to adapt to these changes.
3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
The entire development process is broken into frequent and short intervals that ends with the release of new functionality and bug fixes in the old ones. This is a great way to get a working product quickly.
4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
The development team should communicate with their clients on a regular basis to quickly resolve issues and adjust the product development plan if necessary.
5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
One of the main principles of working in an Agile team is to trust the team members. Give them the opportunity to do their work, provide them with all the necessary conditions and eliminate total control and micromanagement.
6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
The Agile Manifesto emphasizes that face-to-face offline communication or via video calls between development team members and customers is more important than messengers, emails or calls because it is a more effective way of communication.
7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
The main goal of development is a fully finished working product, not error-free reports and documentation.
8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
Building work according to Agile methodology should maintain a constant rhythm of work. Dividing project execution into sprints should normalize the team's work schedule, set clear deadlines, and facilitate frequent release of new versions of the product.
9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
Each new iteration is an improvement on previous deliverables. The team's focus should be on improving the product.
10. Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.
Agile methodologies don't provide processes that do not benefit the customer or improve performance, such processes are eliminated from iterations.
11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
Only motivated and skilled employees who are able to self-organize and redistribute their energies and improve their capabilities get great results.
12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
A successful team constantly develops its skills, improves internal processes and analyzes its performance to reach project goals.
5 popular types of Agile methodologiesAn infinite number of different Agile methodologies have been invented over the past 20 years, and they are hybrids of each other. We will focus on five of the most popular methodologies from the Agile Umbrella family.
KanbanKanban can be considered the most common Agile methodology as it is included in many hybrid project management methods and can be found in many project management programs like Trello, Jira, Notion and many others. According to Digital.ai service estimates, Kanban methodology is used by only 6% of teams, which seems surprisingly low, but at the same time a special task board called Kanban Board is used by 77% of Agile web development teams.
The special feature of this methodology is that each task is represented as a special card with the progress status, such as «To Do», «In Progress» and «Done», and as the task is being completed it is moved between the corresponding columns. A Kanban University study found that 78% of companies were able to improve understanding of their processes by improving visibility of flow, and 52% improved time to market.
Let's understand the benefits of the Kanban methodology:
- Among the methodologies presented in this article, Kanban is probably the simplest one and it can be implemented in any industry, from software development to marketing.
- Kanban makes it easy to visualize tasks in a simple card concept with information that can be easily managed and edited as needed.
- Kanban supports continuous integration through the ability to add and manage cards.
- The number of cards can be limited, thus the Kanban methodology can be built to suit the capacity and capabilities of your team.
- Kanban can be easily crossed with other management methodologies, such as Scrum or XP, due to its simplicity.
Despite the large number of benefits, Kanban methodology has some drawbacks as well:
- Kanban requires constant communication within the team and with the customer and it needs transparency of internal processes so the team always has access to the current status of the project and cannot misinterpret information because it is not up to date.
- The Kanban methodology itself does not set time limits for tasks, but only determines their execution status, so there is a possibility of delays at each stage of development.
Kanban is perfectly suited for small teams that work with tasks of varying size and complexity and frequent changes in the project. However, if you are new to Agile, it is better to choose another management method, as Kanban does not have a clear definition of processes and inexperienced teams may find it difficult to work with this methodology.
ScrumScrum is considered another most common Agile methodology, which can also be found in many project management tools, such as Atlassian products (Jira and Trello), as well as in the dedicated Scrum framework like Scrumwise. About 60% of development teams use Scrum as an Agile methodology for website development. Moreover, Broadcom conducted a study that showed a 2.5x increase in the quality of work of teams using Scrum.
As in many Agile methodologies Scrum projects are divided into short intervals of 1-2 weeks, which are called «sprints» which define its individual goal – a part of the larger end result.
Scrum is one of the few methodologies where each team member has a defined role. In addition to the developers who create the product and the product owner who defines the tasks to be performed, there is the role of the Scrum master who essentially acts as a manager on the project: coordinating the team from iteration to iteration, organizing Scrum events and training new employees to work under the chosen Agile methodology.
We mentioned the fact that a Scrum Master organizes various meetings. Let's look at some of the Scrum events that teams have on a regular basis:
- At the very beginning of the sprint, the team has a sprint planning where they set tasks to do in the next iteration.
- The daily scrum is a small 15-minute meeting where the team is briefly introduced with the current state of the project and the tasks to be done. This way the team can easily understand what's going on in the project and if there are any issues to help with.
- Sprint review, where the team shows the results of their work in the past sprint to the product owner.
- Retrospective. At this last event in the sprint, the team summarizes the past work, reviews the results of the work, and identifies good and bad decisions in the sprint.
Sometimes Scrum events, especially planning, are held in the format of a Scrum Poker game, where the team jointly determines the complexity and scope of tasks. The purpose of such meetings is not to estimate the development time of functionality, but to achieve the same common understanding of the task and implementation steps.
The benefits of Scrum methodologies are the following:
- Unlike Kanban, Scrum is already endowed with enough process transparency so that the team can monitor the status of the project without much difficulty.
- All activities within each sprint are required, and sprint planning is one of the prioritized events in each iteration, so the team understands what needs to be done, what deadlines are for those tasks, and the outcome is determined by a clearly defined definition of done.
- Scrum helps the team to focus on the quality of task completion, which reduces the number of mistakes made.
- In this methodology, tasks can be reprioritized flexibly to reallocate tasks from incomplete sprints and get to goals faster.
Scrum also has some drawbacks that can cause problems on a global scale:
- Scrum focuses on the phased execution of the project and its individual parts, which can lead to a loss of understanding of the overall goal.
- Although roles are defined in Scrum teams, confusion can arise among developers because their role is not specifically defined.
Scrum methodology is a good tool for project management in small teams that are focused on regular release of new versions of the product. Most of the processes in Scrum are clearly defined, so it is well suited for companies that have just decided to implement Agile methodology in their work.
Extreme Programming (XP)Extreme programming is probably the most suitable methodology for projects with constantly changing requirements, which allows to significantly improve the quality of the developed product. Participants regularly collect feedback that is immediately put into production. Among the practices of XP, several can be distinguished:
- Development according to XP methodology is based on teamwork, where all participants work simultaneously on the planned functionality.
- The developed functionality is covered by tests before its final creation.
- In XP, the practice of pair programming is common, which helps to reduce the number of errors in the code and increase the quality of the product.
- Since the whole team is working on the functionality, each participant should have access to the code.
XP has the following benefits:
- You can easily make changes to the project with XP and they will be implemented quickly due to simple code design and frequent releases.
- All responsibility for the project is evenly distributed among the team members, so going on vacation or someone quitting from the team will not ruin the development process.
- There is constant process testing and refactoring during the development, which improves code quality and creation speed.
Despite all the benefits of XP, this method also has a number of drawbacks:
- A lot of focus is placed on writing code in XP, which leaves little time to work on other aspects of product development, such as planning and design.
- Extreme programming only works well with an in-house development team or a remote team located in one place. If the developers are in different locations, the XP methodology can create a lot of collaboration problems.
The success of a project is highly dependent on the developer's experience, so XP is recommended to be used in teams with high-level specialists.
Lean (LN)Lean methodology consists in the following: developers get rid of processes that hinder fast and high-quality results. As part of MVP development, the team works only on the functionality that the customer really needs. Then they receive feedback, which forms the basis for further product updates.
If we talk about Lean methodology in more detail, it is based on 7 principles:
- Get rid of those processes that do not really benefit the product.
- Important components of Lean development are communication between the team and the customer to quickly resolve problems and conflicts and the ability to make local decisions within the team, which will allow successful and efficient work on the product.
- The project is completed in the shortest possible time frame by getting rid of garbage processes.
- The processes built as part of development must be tuned to perfection to maximize value to the customer.
- Refactoring, continuous integration and testing should happen throughout the development phase, not only at the end before the product release.
- Keep a balance between late decision making and early planning.
- The team uses feedback to develop themselves, the business and development techniques further.
Lean methodology has the following benefits:
- The development process is rid of unnecessary activities and processes, which saves the developers' efforts and the customer's resources.
- Within the framework of Lean development, the customer gets only the functionality he wants.
- The development is easily scalable without overloading the business requirements.
At the same time, Lean development has a number of drawbacks:
- Lean methodology requires a very experienced and dedicated team with all processes tuned to perfection.
- It is easy to lose focus on the bottom line because tasks are highly fragmented into small elements.
- Lean methodology requires an understanding of all business processes in the customer's company, otherwise there is a possibility of incorrect product development.
CrystalCrystal is considered to be one of the most agile methodologies that presents managers and developers with a lot of flexibility. The Crystal methodology places a strong emphasis on people, their talents, experience and capabilities, and their interactions with each other, rather than on processes and tools. This methodology reflects most accurately the "people over process" principle. Each project is unique and dynamic for the Crystal methodology, and each requires a specific approach and strategy.
Crystal is easily scalable to the required team size with different variations of the framework such as Crystal Clear, Yellow, Orange and Red, which are suitable for teams of up to 10, 20, 50 and 1000 people respectively.
The benefits of the Crystal framework include the following:
- The framework is very flexible, so teams can choose whatever methods they find effective.
- The team communicates directly with each other, processes are transparent, and reporting is minimal.
- Due to the flexibility of the methodology, development teams can respond to changes quickly and efficiently.
At the same time, Crystal has a number of drawbacks, so this framework may not be suitable for everyone:
- Crystal projects can be very complex due to the peculiarities of the framework, its variability and looseness of principles.
- Crystal methodology implies constant communication, so the framework is not suitable for development teams that are not in one place.
How should companies incorporate Agile methodology into their initiativesIt's important to realize that implementing Agile methodologies doesn't happen overnight, and they may not be a good fit for your team for a number of reasons. Later in this section, we look at the difficulties that may prevent your team from starting to use Agile frameworks, as well as the steps you need to take to become an Agile software development company.
Difficulties with implementing AgileWe highlight a few reasons why it can be difficult to become an Agile software development company:
- Your employees don't understand Agile principles.
No matter how serious management's intentions are to implement Agile web development methodologies in your company, the rest of your employees may be against it, or may not understand it at all. It is therefore important for management to understand the benefits of an Agile methodology, how it will help the company and its processes to evolve, and as a result your team should fully support its implementation and you have to explain to your employees why it is important if needed.
- There is no clear understanding of how the Agile methodology can impact the business.
It is not enough to just work on a project using the Agile methodology, because it may not give the business the results it needs to grow the company. Therefore, it is important to understand how certain strategies can lead the company to the desired goals, when adopting Agile methodology.
- The company does not have the necessary experience in applying Agile methodologies.
More and more companies are starting to apply Agile methodologies to their projects and needs, and these management methods are becoming better and better adapted. However, it is not easy to find employees who know how to work according to Agile principles, so that’s why it is difficult to switch to Agile management.
How to implement Agile into your processesIf you decide to implement any of the Agile methodologies into your business processes, here's an algorithm on how you can do it:
1. Get the support of management, colleagues and other employees in the company.
One of the principles of Agile is that communication and teamwork are important, so you need full support in the team to successfully implement Agile management methods. To do this, talk to everyone, discuss the working principles and answer any questions that arise.
2. Move one of your projects to the new management methodology.
Another one of the Agile principles tells us that a project should be developed in stages, so a smart decision is to move one of your small projects to the Agile methodology and see how the processes go. If everything is successful, you can start a gradual transition for the rest of the projects.
3. Motivate your team to work according to the new principles.
The third principle of Agile, which we recall in this section, states that work should be built within a motivated team with a proper level of trust in its members. Therefore, team communication, collaboration and joint problem solving should be an important part of the workflow, otherwise using Agile web development approaches will be ineffective.
4. Choose an Agile framework and try to work with it.
Be prepared for your workflows to change significantly, so in the beginning you should choose one framework and stick to its initial approaches. This way you can avoid confusion at the initial stage and your team can get used to the new working principles.
5. Adjust the management methodology to suit you.
After using the chosen Agile methodology for a short period of time, conduct a retrospective where you analyze the pros and cons of the chosen framework according to your experience of using it and, if necessary, make changes to the methodology or choose a different one.
ConclusionAgile development, and in particular Agile web development, proved to be an effective way to build software products. The methodologies and frameworks transparently show teams the status of project progress, and employees understand how they are doing and if there are any problems. Teams have the opportunity to regularly release new functionality of their product to the market. Each team may have their own agile project management methodologies, but they have one thing in common - working quickly and efficiently with changing requirements.
In this article, we took a detailed walk through the basics of Agile methodologies, looked at a few popular examples, explored their benefits and drawbacks, and examined their use cases.
We use Agile methodologies in all of our projects, and it led us and our clients to some success. If you have a project you want to implement with a remote development team that works according to Agile principles, then feel free to contact us and we will answer all your questions and send you an estimate of your project.